Buzz Aldrin was born in the United States on January 20, 1930 in Montclair, New Jersey. His real name was Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr, after his father. He got his nickname Buzz from his older sister. He liked his nickname so much that he eventually made it his legal first name in 1988.
His family consisted of mother Marion, father Edwin Eugene Aldrin Sr. and his older sisters Madeleine and Fay Ann.
During his childhood he did not show much interest in space. He was fascinated by science fiction, but he did not look at the night sky with a great desire to explore.
Aldrin was an intelligent and athletic child. He graduated from Montclair High School a year early and in 1947 enrolled at the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point. There he took a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
He joined the United States Air Force and served as a jet fighter pilot during the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. He flew a total of 66 combat missions in the F-86 Sabers and shot down two enemy planes (MiG-15).
The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, and Aldrin later spent some time on duty in West Germany, flying the F100’s Super Sabers fighter jets. He decided to return to school again and began studying at the university in 1959 and received a Doctor of Science in Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Four years later, he was selected by NASA to become an astronaut. It was the second time he applied, after being inspired by his friend Ed White, the Gemini and Apollo astronaut.
NASA launched the Apollo space program. It was a spacecraft with three people and its primary purpose was to land astronauts on the moon. Aldrin became part of the back-up crew for Apollo 8, along with Neil Armstrong and Fred W Haise Jr.
He was never allowed to go into space with Apollo 8. But when it was time for Apollo 11, he got assigned to be the lunar module pilot along with Armstrong as commander and Michael Collins as command module pilot.
The mission was a success. Apollo 11 landed with only 30 seconds of fuel left in the landing tank and did not land at the previously planned location.
Armstrong became the first to set foot on the moon, followed by Aldrin 19 minutes later. An estimated 650 million people watched the moon landing on television.
After the moon landing
Aldrin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and helped design the space shuttle. However, he did not like to be in the spotlight. He retired from NASA in 1971 and returned to the Air Force. He then retired the following year. He had retired from the Air Force because he had been asked to lead a test pilot school even though he had never trained as a test pilot. He also mourned the death of his mother in May 1968.
His depression made him start drinking and he divorced his first wife Joan Archer in 1974. He married Beverly Zile in 1975 but got divorced three years later. He became sober in 1979 and began to turn his life in the right direction.